Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’04:
Haines Junction to, uh, Whitehorse

Saturday, 14 August 2004

By the Numbers
  • Distance Driven Today: about 297.8 km
  • Gas Purchased Today: 36.63 litres at Source Motors, again
  • Total Cracks in Windshield: if we just let the bugs build up on the windshield, no one can tell, right?
Wild Woolies
  • Salmon: many, trying very hard to go up a creek without a paddle

Our plan is to drive straight through to Watson Lake, so that we can finish out the Yukon Passport game and the Yukon Adventure Challenge. You might recall that, when last in Watson Lake (almost a month ago), we learned about these two scavenger-hunt-like games. Well, there are stamps to get, for the passport game, in Whitehorse, Teslin, and Watson Lake. There are also numbers, for the adventure game, in the same towns (and some towns that are even smaller). Even though we were in Watson Lake, we neglected to pick up either the stamp or the numbers for that town, now we need to get back there while the buildings are open. This will be quite a trick.

We look at the map and our copy of the Milepost, determining that there is not much of interest between Haines Junction and Whitehorse, so we should be able to drive straight through in a bit of a hurry. Well, there are only a few things on the way.

Ok, ok, so we will probably end up stopping every few feet!

Along the way, we stop at the Canyon Creek Bridge. This is a reconstruction of the original wooden bridge that carried traffic on the first Alaska Highway. It is kinda cool in its design, so we hang out and take pictures. And, since we are not in any particular hurry to get anywhere, we go put our feet in the creek. At some point, this becomes a bit silly and we end up crossing the creek with our pants rolled up, wading. The water temperature is quite nice and it feels good on our feet.

Getting out of the creek back on the side where the car is parked, we meet a German couple driving through toward Whitehorse, as well. They have just come from Fairbanks and driving the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay. Again, since we have nowhere particular to be and plenty of time, we spend about a half an hour talking about the beauty of the tundra and Denali and whatever we can think of. They are somewhat like us and interested in everything. This is one of the fun parts of travel like this – we meet interesting people who share our viewpoints.

Well, I guess we had better get going…

Arriving in Whitehorse, we are pretty excited, we have to get five stamps and about 10 numbers for the passport and adventure games, respectively. After this, we are almost completely done! The hitch is that they have no firm addresses for any of these sites, just names. We spend time with the guidebook and the game books, triangulating. Where is Sulu when you need him?

We ask directions to the Whitehorse fish ladder from several folks and get some very strange directions. The fish ladder, for those who do not know, allows salmon (and other fish) to get around the dam by creating an artificial falls / rapids. It is one of the attractions on the adventure game. Given the directions, it seems like we will have difficulty getting this one.

The last place we ask directions is at the visitor’s center for another stern wheeler, the SS Klondike, perched on the levee by the river (just like the SS Keno in Dawson City). We ask the disaffected youth behind the counter for directions to the fish ladder and to the Beringia Interpretive Center and the Transportation Museum. The last two have stamps in the passport game. This is when we hear the horrible phrase: “but they are probably closed already”.

Egad. We did not just drive all the way here to have these places close on us! Perhaps we should have noticed that it is about 5pm…

Needless to say, we hustle back to the car and drive like mad in the general direction of the two museums. And then we turn around and go the right way.

The Beringia Interpretive Center seems excellent. They have huge skeletons of mastodons, scimitar cats, giant beaver… Yes, giant beaver, and I had Lea Ann take my picture petting the beaver.

The deal with the passports is that you can get the stamps without actually paying to get into the attraction. So, here at the Beringia, we get the stamp and the guy at the desk has the audacity to ask if we are planning to come in! Can you imagine? Giving us a guilt trip about simply collecting the stamps and not experiencing the actual attraction; what will he think of next? Cultural tourism, where we experience the culture? We do not have time for such frivolity.

Ahem. Anyway, with some hemming and hawing, we back out of the place, with stamps in hand. The Transportation Museum is much less contentious. The disaffected youth at the desk simply stamps the passports as though they are bugs that need squashing and sends us on our way.

One of the landmarks letting you know you are close to the airport and the Transportation Museum is the weather vane. This is no ordinary weather vane, it is a freely turning McDonnell-Douglas DC-3, that points nose into the wind. Someone has way too much time on their hands.

Speaking of time on one’s hands, it is now clear to us that we are not going to make it to Watson Lake. Not only is it still many, many kilometers away, but there is still one place to get a stamp between here and there and it will definitely be closed when we arrive. Armed with this new information, our pace relaxes a bit. We will just stay here, have dinner, wash clothes, and see the other things in town, like the fish ladder and Miles Canyon.

First, the fish ladder. Combining all the sets of directions, we manage to find it on the far side of the river. If we had looked at the Milepost, it would have been much clearer. This is really a neat side trip. They have big windows in the side of the ladder, where you can see the fish up close. There is also a platform where you can look down on the fish gathering to go up the ladder. Needless to say, we spend quite a bit of time here, watching the fish. Lea Ann even sees one leap completely out of the water in a vain attempt to go straight up the dam.

After the fish ladder, we decide to test the guidebooks’ knowledge of coffee. There is at least one coffee place in town that does not disappoint and, honestly, it is good enough that we never ventured to another.

The Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters has really good coffee, of course, but beyond the coffee they also have pastries from a bakery run by two women, one of whom is named "Lea Ann". Needless to say, the pastries are excellent. The date bars, in particular, are fabulous. We think about bringing one home to my mom, who is a date bar fan, but hey, it would never make it out of the Yukon. Just too delicious.

Coffee in hand, we go to check out Miles Canyon. This is a neat little basaltic canyon a few kilometers up river from town. It sports the first bridge ever built across the Yukon River; a foot suspension bridge. (I am fairly certain it is a replica.) By all indications, this also appears to be the place where locals go to drink beer and party. Why not? You can set up a blanket and a cooler and be pretty well removed from everyone else. We meet several people packing it in for the day, coolers in hand.

Well, we decided to stay and enjoyed a few more sights, but have not bothered to get a hotel yet, so we venture back downtown, in search of lodging. The Town and Mountain Hotel appears to be pretty nice and it has high-speed internet in the room! Seems to be a theme with us. It is a winner.

Having assured ourselves that there is no "Rendezvous Whitehorse", we go back out to do… laundry!. Once again, we lead an exciting life, but you gotta do what you gotta do, eh?

A/C in the Great White North
Most places up here do not have air conditioning. Comes as no surprise really; tends to get cold more often than hot. But, though our southern friends might not believe it, the summers can get pretty hot during the day. The new hotels usually have no cross-breeze capability, but often do have A/C. Our hotel here in Whitehorse has no cross-breeze and no A/C. But they do provide each room with a good sized box fan, so we get creative and figure out how to jam it in the window and bring in some fresh air. It looks kinda precarious balanced up on our suitcase…

While doing laundry, we sit and work on the site. Nice alliteration. Apparently, this attracts some attention because a young boy walks up and asks what we are doing. Lea Ann says she is writing down receipts. He says “oh”. Pause. “What is he doing?” (That would be me.) “Figuring out where we were on each day.” “Oh.” Pause. “You mind if I pull up a chair?”

This transaction is a little odd, but the kid does pull up a chair and turns out to be an intelligent and nice fellow. He and Lea Ann talk about software, traveling, computer games, etc. His name is "Aric" and, in his words "it is pronounced ah-ric, but most people just say eh-ric. I don’t mind."

After we finish laundry, it is too late to get food much of anywhere, so the hotel staff directs us to one of the larger Canadian chains: Boston Pizza. Turns out that the joint is open late. In Whitehorse, "late" means 2:00 am. We go and there are actually a few people there. A couple of beers are had by all, making for a good night’s sleep.

see it on a map

The previous installment:
Haines to Haines Junction

The next installment:
Whitehorse to Simmons Lake

Back to Great White North Trip main page

Back to Mawler Home

All materials © 2004 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler